Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
Crikey. This blog is really late.
Not only is it really late but it is also going to be really annoying.
Two BIG THINGS have happened this week. They are good things. If both of them follow through then my professional, financial and personal life will be markedly improved. But both of the BIG THINGS are under embargo until everything is signed and sealed. Which is very annoying. Probably more so for you than for me, because I know what they are.
Sometimes the Universe (God, Mystic Law, etc.) grants our wishes. And sometimes that is much scarier than when it doesn’t. In Buddhism we have the concept of the Eight Winds; the eight forces in life which can blow you off-centre.
‘Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.’
When you are being constantly buffeted by a wind from one direction, you get used to compensating for it. You might even pride yourself on your strength in enduring it. But real strength is not falling over when it suddenly changes direction.
I had got so used to difficulties, to being stripped of the things on which my ego was built, that suddenly having the immediate potential of good things in my life has made me, not exactly fall over, but certainly become unsteady on my feet.
From my entirely subjective point of view, of course, none of this is a coincidence. It is not a co-incidence that these potentials appear after my appointment to a leadership responsibility in the Buddhist organisation. Nor is it a co-incidence that it has appeared while I am working through a chapter called ‘Recovering a Sense of Abundance.’
‘We secretly think that God wants us to be broke if we are going to be so decadent as to want to be artists.’ P. 107.
This week Julia challenged me to look at my issues surrounding money, and by extension, that sense of lack of self-worth which might keep us from achieving abundance. This isn’t Cosmic Ordering, nor is there a moral sense that people with money deserve it and those who don’t, don’t. Rather this is a personal thing about the ways in which our negative beliefs about ourselves and the Universe might block us off from the boundless potential of the world.
‘Art is born in expansion, in a belief in sufficient supply, it is critical that we pamper ourselves for the sense of abundance it bring us. . . All too often, we become blocked and blame it on our lack of money. This is never an authentic block. The actual block is our feeling of constriction, our sense of powerlessness.’ P. 109
That sense of constriction has been a big thing for me all of my creative life. ‘I can’t be creative and happy until I’ve got money.’ And, ‘I definitely can’t get money through being happily creative.’
Julia isn’t saying that we should bankrupt ourselves in order to get that ‘must have item.’ She’s talking about being compassionate enough to ourselves to treat us to those little things we might deny ourselves unnecessarily, even if those things are free, like pretty pebbles, or a walk in the sun. In my case I went and, finally, bought myself some new shoes so I don’t get blisters on the way to work any more. Why did I wait so long? Did I feel I deserved blisters?
It’s time to tell you a story. The most important stories I’ve got. Hold it gently.
Tom’s Most Important Story
I had been chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for a year and a half. During that time, lots of remarkable things had happened to me, but I wasn’t sure they were related to the practice. I was getting increasingly frustrated. Everyone else seemed to get this amazing feeling from chanting, like they were connected to the energy of the Universe, drawing forth this amazing strength from within. I just felt bored when I chanted. I loved the philosophy, I liked the activities, I enjoyed meeting up with the other members. But when I chanted I felt nothing. And I wanted to so badly.
My local leader challenged me. He said, ‘Go on a course, say yes to everything you’re asked to do, give everything you can give, then you’ll get your answer.’
‘What if nothing happens?’
‘Then you can go try something else.’
So I booked myself a place on a course in the south of France, knowing that if I didn’t feel something while chanting by the time I came back, I would quit the practice and go and try something else.
Having made that decision, I immediately regretted it; everyone was asking me to do things on the course; be part of the ushering team, MC, an entertainment. And the glee with which they asked me, ‘Go on, it will change your life,’ became increasingly off-putting. There’s nothing more annoying to someone in a grump than people who are really happy, and nothing more annoying to people who are feeling lost than those with conviction.
But I did say yes to everything. This led to some clashes, as I ended up MCing and ushering at the same time and kept running from the mike at the front of the room, to the back to open doors for people. I had a whale of a time, the pettiness seemed to fall away and I started to really connect to everyone else. By the last night, however, I still hadn’t felt anything when chanting. I hadn’t come there to enjoy myself; I’d come for a profound spiritual experience, and I wasn’t getting it.
I vented my frustration at a young woman there. She asked, ‘Do you think the reason you don’t feel a connection to your Buddhahood is that you don’t feel worthy of a connection?’
I allowed that to sink in for a moment.
Then I replied, ‘No, that’s post-Freudian bollocks. Fuck off.’
The next morning, still pissed off, I got up to chant. I said the first ‘Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo’ and I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if she’s right?’
And – wumph – it hit me.
I experienced three things completely, fully, with all my senses.
Firstly, I was me as a young boy, weeping uncontrollably.
Secondly, I was me at the age I was when all this happened, holding that boy and weeping with him.
Thirdly, I was me, sat in the chanting room in the south of France, weeping uncontrollably.
A leader came up and gently put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Would you like to lead the chanting for a bit?’
I got into the chair at the front and continued to experience all three layers of reality; weeping boy, weeping young man holding that boy, and weeping young man sat in the south of France, wondering how much you can cry on a microphone before it explodes.
I realised then, that if the practice was able to show me that grief at the centre of my life, that it would be able to heal it.
Nine years later and that journey has led me here. And to taking this course. And writing these words. And to you reading them.
And of course, to the BIG THINGS. Which I can’t tell you about.
There were also not one but three pleasant experiences of creativity in the last week.
The Artist’s Way tasks for the last couple of weeks involved making a scrapbook of images of your ideal life; activities you’d like to do, things you’d like to own, clothes to wear and places to live. I did that and had great fun doing it. Turns out I really want to live in a tree house over-looking the sea. With an ipad and a nice suit. Not sure they all gel together into a coherent life-style but it was a very satisfying experience. I’m not going to post it though, as I was using Google images to compile it and it would take me a full working week to credit all the sources sufficiently to avoid law-suits.
As an Artist Date, I decided to gift myself something I haven’t really had for over a decade: an hour with no distractions to write whatever came into my head. I found a random title generator http://mdbenoit.com/rtg.htm. Clicked spin, picked one and then wrote for an hour, non-stop. And out it poured. I don’t know if it’s a short story or a strand of a novel, but I liked the feeling of it pouring out, and I liked how it looked once it was out. I’m not going to post it though because it’s not quite ready yet.
At work, I started directing some scenes with some students for a showing in late June. It’s my first time rehearsing (as opposed to leading a workshop) for over six months and it felt really good. I was oddly nervous, but it was very satisfying watching it all come together. I’m not going to post it though, because it was a transient moment in time and therefore resistant to capture in a digital format.
My big little sister sent me some origami ducks. I am going to post them here as I have a picture.
Back next week.